Step back in time on a 15-day voyage into Japan’s riveting history, from the elegant shrines and merchant districts of the Meiji era in Tokyo to the poignant sites of World War II in Hiroshima to historic castle towns of the Edo period in Kobe. As you trace the shores of Honshu and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea aboard the National Geographic Resolution, venture into the homes of samurai and feudal lords and discover exquisite centuries-old gardens and temples. Take a detour to South Korea to spend a day exploring the ancient city of Gyeongju. Discover Japanese artistic traditions of the past and its vibrant present-day culture.
Delve into the history of the samurai and their feudal Lords
Explore the rich cultural legacy of Korea’s Silla Dynasty
Visit museums dedicated to artists and traditional handicrafts in Matsue & Takamatsu
Depart on an overnight flight to Tokyo and transfer to your hotel, located steps from the lively Ginza district.
Day 2: Tokyo
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy a full day to get to know this vibrant city, the capital of Japan since the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Visit Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji, who brought an end to Japan’s long feudal period. Visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum, then meander through the historic Asakusa neighborhood around Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji. Gather tonight for a welcome dinner.
Step into Old Japan in Kanazawa, once a powerful city ruled by the Maeda clan. Stroll past the lovely wooden homes of the samurai in the Naga-machi district, where the streets are intentionally narrow and winding to confuse enemies. Then explore the geisha and teahouse district of Higashi Chaya Machi. Next, wander the pathways of Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s designated “three best landscape gardens,” established in 1676 by the Maeda family and developed over 150 years.
Follow the coast west to Matsue, situated between a lake, a lagoon, and the sea. Tour the 17th-century Matsue Castle built as a defensive fortress, and discover its clever design elements intended to foil the enemy. Continue to the Adachi Museum of Art, which blends an impressive collection of 20th-century Japanese art with a gem-like traditional garden.
In the castle town of Hagi, known for its fine ceramic arts, tour the historic district, once home to wealthy merchants and samurai. Stroll past serene rows of stone lanterns at the town’s two Zen Buddhist temples, where the feudal lords of the powerful Mori clan were laid to rest. This afternoon, chart the course for the Korean Peninsula.
Dock in Ulsan, and travel to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla kingdom and the crown jewel of Korea’s cultural heritage. Packed with the ruins of temples, pagodas, and palaces dating back more than a thousand years, the historic areas of the city have been collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit Bulguksa Temple, a masterpiece of Silla architecture originally built in 528 A.D. At the Gyeongju National Museum, examine jewelry, weapons, and other Silla artifacts. See Cheomseongdae, a seventh-century observatory, and wander among towering royal burial mounds.
Long before World War II, Nagasaki was a cosmopolitan trading center, drawing merchants from Europe and China to its picturesque harbor as early as the 1500s. Visit Oura Cathedral, the oldest Christian church in Japan, and venture into Sofukuji, a 400-year-old Ming-style Zen Buddhist temple. Visit Nagasaki Peace Park, where a poignant exhibition illustrates the aftermath of the atomic bomb drop on the city, and see the somber monument erected at ground zero.
At the southern end of Kyushu, the city of Kagoshima sits just across the bay from the active volcano Sakurajima. Take a walk in Sengan-en Garden, designed by the city’s ruling Shimadzu clan in 1658 to incorporate the bay and its simmering volcano. After lunch, travel along the Satsuma Peninsula to the village of Chiran, where the samurai designed gardens inspired by their travels.
The diverse ecology of Yakushima Island, including a subtropical coast and temperate rainforest in the interior, has earned this island's World Heritage status. On a hike, discover the island’s ancient yakusugi cedar trees, many of which date back more than a thousand years. Your ship turns north toward the island of Shikoku this evening.
Rise early for a morning hike to Uwajima Castle, one of just 12 original Edo-period castles that remain intact. Continue to Uchiko, once a center of wax production. Take a walk in the town’s well-preserved Yokaichi district, where beautifully crafted wooden merchant homes recall the prosperity of the Meiji period.
Start the day on the island of Miyajima, home of Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its red torii gate that seems to float atop the water at high tide. In Hiroshima, visit the Peace Memorial Park. See the A-Bomb Dome, one of only a few buildings left standing after the attack, and learn about the city’s dedication to peace following World War II.
The small island of Naoshima was transformed from a dwindling community to a vibrant art center by Benesse Holdings, which began inviting artists and architects to create a hub for the arts in the early 1990s. Discover the island’s cutting-edge creations, from an underground museum designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando to the famous polka-dotted pumpkins of Yayoi Kusama. After lunch, cross to Takamatsu on Shikoku Island. Explore Shikoku Mur, an open-air museum that showcases traditional building styles. End the day at the Noguchi Garden Museum, which features the sculptures and workshop of Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi.
Dock in Okayama and head for your second of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens”: Koraku-en. Wander paths that wind along forest streams and past traditional teahouses tucked amid maple and cherry trees. See the black-walled Okayama Castle, before continuing to the former shipping center of Kurashiki, where centuries-old rice granaries line a lovely canal. Browse local handicrafts, and visit the renowned Ohara Museum of Art and the 18th-century Ohashi House.
Day 15: Kobe | Osaka | Home
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch
This morning disembark in Kobe. Pay a visit to 17th-century Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage known as the White Heron Castle. After lunch, transfer to the airport in Osaka for your flight home.
For full cancellation policy details, please contact us for a quote.
14 Breakfasts, 14 Lunches, 14 Dinners
13 Nights Accommodations
Accommodations as listed
Ground transportation as listed
Activities as listed
Meals as listed
Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
Complimentary Parka - available only for the duration of the voyage.
All airport transfers mentioned in the itinerary.
Use of snorkeling equipment, wet suits, and kayaks (where available)
Services of the expert expedition team and guest speakers
Shore excursions, sightseeing, entrance fees, and special access permits
Taxes, service charges, and tips (except for ship’s crew, at guests’ discretion)
Flight costs (please request a quote)
Additional excursions during free time
Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
Additional Hotel Nights
Air transportation (except when indicated in the itinerary, as included)
Passport, visa, and immigration fees
Special and unique excursions such as scuba diving, flightseeing, etc. (where offered)
Alcoholic beverages (alcohol is included on select ships)
Items of personal nature
Phone and Internet Service
Gratuity for ship’s crew, at guests’ discretion (crew tips are included on select ships
We strongly recommend our guests to take Travel Protection Plan. A Plan with comprehensive coverage to protect you from cancellation fees, costs incurred due to trip delays/interruption, damaged or lost baggage, medical assistance, and evacuation during your travels
We are so glad that we chose Adventure Life. The service is top-notch. Everything is well taken care of and we just have to print the documents and go. Franny even gave us timely updates on possible airport strike.
TrustScore 4.6 | 107 reviews
TrustScore 4.6 of 5
Based on 107 reviews on
20 hours ago
Clara and Rhenee were gracious and available. Phone contact is so important to answer questions and discuss all aspects of trip. If not immediately available they scheduled a time to speak.
They were knowledgeable, honest, realistic and very friendly. They are both very professional and take their role seriously.
20 hours ago
Jason has been wonderful. He is full of information and was very willing to listen to what was of interest to us.
2 days ago
The ability (of Kassandra) to tailor a guided trip to my exact preferences is very valuable to me, as well as the ability (of Kassandra) to provide expert guidance on destinations and travel dates. I also appreciate the ability of the backup staff (Maria Ignacio, Exito Travel) to coordinate all the details to make the travel logistics easy for the customer.
2 days ago
Our Costa Rica trip was amazing! Kassandra planned everything and the excursions, hotels, overall organization were outstanding. Everything worked out smoothly, the excursions guides were knowledgeable allowing us to see so much of the fauna and flora of the country. The hotels were great as well, all in fantastic locations and with beautiful views.
2 days ago
This is our 7th trip Kassandra has planned and she is wonderful to work with. She is responsive, helpful, patient and knowledgeable. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to work together with her. We love Adventure Life!